“Come on, come in! Welcome, welcome. Oh, here we are. Tea? Or maybe something a little stronger? I’ve got a few bottles of the Old Wineyard left. 1296. Very good year. Almost as old as I am! It was laid down by my father. Let’s say we open one, eh? ” – Bilbo Baggins, The Fellowship of the Ring
It’s no secret that Bilbo Baggins of Bag End enjoyed his wine, and like him, I too enjoy pairing a glass with whatever is on my dinner menu. So, when I heard about the New Zealand-based company, MIDDLE-EARTH™ Wine, I had to track them down and learn a bit more.
In this exclusive interview I talk with MIDDLE-EARTH™ Wine Director, Ryan O’Connell, who shares a bit about the company’s beginnings, passions, and future plans.
Arwen: Where did the idea of creating MIDDLE-EARTH™ Wine first originate?
Ryan: MIDDLE-EARTH™ Wine came about for us when we were looking for a name for our family’s wine brand. We wanted something that represented our location, and as it so happens very near our vineyard is geographically the exact centre/middle of New Zealand. Also we wanted something that people would know is from here in NZ, and with Peter Jackson and all the crew over the years doing such an amazing job with the LOTR films and now with The Hobbit I think the name really fits.
Arwen: Are those involved fans of Tolkien and his writing?
Ryan: Yes of course, all our family are. I remember being read all of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit works buy my Dad, and as I write this I am looking at them all on our bookshelf.
Arwen: How do you go about deciding which new variety of wine to introduce?
Ryan: We have five wine varieties in total, the main choices for these wines is based on what is best grown here at our family’s vineyards in Nelson. We want our wines to be a reflection of their place and Nelson is such a great region to produce wine, with our high sunshine hours, clean air, and water. We really respect our land and are proud to be accredited as 100% sustainable winegrowers.
Arwen: Are any of your products available for purchase outside New Zealand?
Ryan: Yes, it seems more and more too. You can buy some of our wines in the United States via our website www.middleearthwine.com, and we are moving into retail and on premise markets in New York and California soon. Australia, Fiji as well. And soon Canada, China, and Japan. It really helps when people from around the world ask for our wines!
Arwen: Where do you hope to see MIDDLE-EARTH™ Wine in ten years?
Ryan: I hope to still be enjoying myself as much as I do now, and to keep making great wine from our home in New Zealand/Middle-earth. We have children of our own who really love where we are, so maybe in the years to come they will play a bigger part in our business.
Arwen: Do you have a personal favorite variety your company makes?
Ryan: I really appreciate all wine styles, and each can be enjoyed as much as another. Wine is a subjective choice, but it is always good to explore. Also its about enjoying wine with family, friends, and good food. If I had to choose right now our Sauvignon Blanc is a great example, fresh clean and crisp with beautiful tropical and citrus characters.
Arwen: Does MIDDLE-EARTH™ Wine offer tours at your New Zealand location?
Ryan: This is something we are working on at the moment. We are a working vineyard, but with so many requests we have been thinking hard about what we can do that would be really special, so watch this space.